Simcoe County is one of the largest upper-tier municipalities in the central Ontario zone (491,157 ha) and also ranks among the most ecologically significant and diverse regions of the Province. Like the City of Kawartha Lakes and the County of Peterborough, the northern portion of Simcoe contains extensive tracts of undisturbed forest, a considerable amount of which is still Crown Land. However, several of the larger tracts have been identified as County Greenlands (Gartner Lee Limited 1996) and therefore receive Level 3 protection (Table 11, Figure 12).
Northeast Simcoe (Townships of Matchedash, Severn, and Ramara) also contain numerous unevaluated wetlands that have no policy protection (Level 4). There are three large Provincial Parks (Level 2) in this area. Much of the development pressure in north Simcoe County is being exerted along the shoreline of Georgian Bay (particularly in the Towns of Collingwood and Wasaga Beach).
North of the City of Barrie, in the central portion of Simcoe County (Townships of Springwater and Oro-Medonte), there are vast tracts of woodland, many of which are County Greenlands and County Forests (Level 3). Two of the most dominant natural heritage features in this part of the County are the extensive, provincially significant Minesing Swamp (Figure 12), which forms part of the Nottawasaga River drainage basin, and the Oro Moraine, a well-wooded area of rolling terrain located between the Cities of Barrie and Orillia that marks the drainage divide between Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay.
The primary areas of environmental constraint in south Simcoe are associated with the Oak Ridges Moraine, which occupies its southwest corner (Figure 12), the shore of Lake Simcoe (Cook's Bay and Kempenfelt Bay), the densely forested lands on and surrounding Canadian Forces Base Borden due west of Barrie (Township of Essa) and six major northward flowing creek valleys: Lovers Creek (Town of Innisfil), Innisfil Creek (Innisfil and New Tecumseth), the main branch of the Nottawasaga River (Townships of Adjala-Tosorontio and Essa), Shelton Creek (Adjala-Tosorontio), Bailey Creek (New Tecumseth), and the Pine River (Adjala-Tosorontio). The Pine River and Innisfil, Bailey, and Shelton Creeks are all major headwater tributaries of the Nottawasaga River, which eventually drains to Georgian Bay. These creek valleys contain provincially significant wetlands, adjacent woodlands and important coldwater fish habitat.
Outside the communities of Barrie, Bradford, Alliston, and to a lesser extent Beeton, Alcona, and Cookstown, the predominant land use in south Simcoe is agricultural. The forest cover over much of this farmland, however, is sparse and fragmented, with the majority of the woodlots less than 10 ha in size and not protected (Level 4). However, many of the larger, intact forest blocks remaining in south Simcoe are part of the County's Greenlands System (Gartner Lee Limited 1996), which forms an integral part of the County of Simcoe (2000) Official Plan.
Several large developments have been proposed for the southern municipalities of Simcoe (specifically the Towns of Innisfil and Bradford-West Gwillimbury).
Table 11: Levels of Greenlands Protection for the County of Simcoe
Figure 12: County of Simcoe